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  • Writer's picturelaurahelfrich

New Year’s Resolutions – Do they work for people with ADHD?

No, of course not! Well, that is my opinion at least.

It is surprising to me that we would even try to hold ourselves to something that has such a low success rate for everyone (including neurotypicals).

Let me share some of my thoughts on why New Year’s Resolutions do not work for people with ADHD… and offer something that might work instead!


As we have heard by many productivity experts, New Year’s Resolutions fail because they are not specific enough. They are typically these lofty and aspirational goals hoping to “fix” something in our lives. If this is something significant in our life, making a resolution is going to be about as effective as making a birthday wish when blowing out the candles on your cake. A goal without a plan is a wish.

ADHD brains love a challenge… but it has to be the right level of challenge. Too many undefined variables and too many “what-ifs” can send our brains into a mental tailspin. Like a gear that will not engage, we will not find traction with a traditional New Year’s Resolution.

Putting ourselves in the Future

Being undiagnosed most of my life, I just thought this was something that was normal. Apparently, most neurotypicals can actually envision a future self (and maybe some people with ADHD can as well). But I know that I do not and that is the experience for many other ADHDers as well. People with ADHD can be so rooted in the present that our future self feels like an entirely different person. It can be hard to make healthy changes in the present when it does not even feel like we are doing this for the betterment of ourselves.

Which leads me to my next thought…

Delayed Gratification

One of the hallmarks of ADHD is impulsivity. In terms of New Year’s Resolutions, this might mean that we easily make decisions that are counter to our goals because we did not stop and think the decision through to see how it aligns to what we are trying to achieve.

This is followed closely by all or nothing thinking. This is not exclusive to people with ADHD, but is a common distorted thinking pattern that people with ADHD are also impacted with. What might happen is once you take an action that is in direct contradiction to your goal, then you give up on the goal for the day, week, year. The thinking is because you “messed up”, there is no value in continuing to try.


All is not lost… we can make significant positive changes in our lives!

Something to consider is that instead of making a New Year’s Resolution that you have already convinced yourself that you will not be able to keep… why not try a Word of the Year?

Last year was the first time I used this approach… and let me tell you, it has been far more successful for me than any goal setting I have ever done. Having one word that I needed to consider became an anchor point. I even had a bracelet made so I had a physical reminder of what I was trying to achieve. It was the small changes throughout the year that made lasting and achievable change in my life.

What was my word of the year for 2022? GROWTH… and now I am curious, what will your word be for 2023?

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